There is much talk today about autonomous vehicles. There is less or no talk about the possibility that when automobiles become autonomous, human beings no longer will be. A sad irony, indeed.
Let me explain. It is not a coincidence that in large inner cities-- where most people take the subway, buses, taxis, and other public transportation to get where they are going-- they tend to vote 80% to 90+% for so-called progressives, leftists, Democrats. Whereas in more rural areas, western states, i.e. “fly over country,” people vote for conservatives for the most part.
This is because the latter are used to being independent and doing things for themselves. They map out their own lives, and don’t need the government to tell them what to do-- and when and how to do it. In fact, they grow the food and extract the energy that all of us, especially those in the big cities, need to survive.
They prefer to be responsible for their own lives, drive themselves around, and make their own schedules. They also tend to like land, whether a suburban yard, or a ranch or farm. By contrast, most in the densely populated urban areas live stacked up in relatively small apartments, flats, and condos, with neighbors on all sides of them, just a few feet away through the walls, floors, and ceilings. They therefore heavily rely on public transportation. When they walk to the local deli or boutique, policemen are often visible—and signs tell them when to “Stop,” “Walk,” or “Yield.”
Where am I headed with this? The more we allow others to control us, the more autonomy we cede. That is obvious. When we surrender our autonomy to gadgets and machines, we eventually forget how to do the things they now do for us. Many kids can no longer tell time when looking at an old analog “clock.” (In fact, some schools in England—and elsewhere—have removed these clocks from their walls for that very reason.) Unless a digital clock shows them it is, for example, “10:15,” they are lost. And who among us hasn’t handed cash to a clerk at a checkout lane and watched them briefly struggle to figure out the change we are due back…until they look at the digital display on the register? We are in real trouble if they can’t, of their own competence and volition, quickly determine that if the bill comes to, say, $19.72-- and we hand them a $20 bill-- we are owed 28 cents in change.
Much as we outsource many of our jobs, we are outsourcing many of our brain functions. And, while there are numerous and obvious benefits to technological innovations, if we allow them to, in effect, “dumb us down,” will it ultimately be to our benefit? Especially when we consider the potential ramifications of the rapid onset of “artificial intelligence.”
I fear that the God-given, “organic” intelligence we possess may one day be eclipsed and usurped by an artificial one. No one knows where that will lead. And we will have simply let that happen.
Americans have long had a love affair with the automobile. (“Get your kicks on Route 66.”) In large part because of the sheer, unlimited freedom cars provided us. There was great joy in “taking the wheel,” and charting your own path. In mastering the machine…and the road.
With the coming “Great Reset” and “Fourth Industrial Revolution” we are in danger of writing ourselves out of our own story. Will we let our machines master us?
When our vehicles are autonomous, will we need them more than they need us? By relinquishing our control, will we have swapped our independence for theirs? Will we have ceded our autonomy—and freedom—to the big corporations and governments that manufacture, monitor, and control them?
Perhaps that is the reason “progressives” and the “Great Reset” favoring elites seem so hell-bent on making our vehicles autonomous…and us less so.